TORONTO — Karen Fenwick and Debbie Wasserman have been preparing for Passover since last May.
The two are co-chairs of National Council of Jewish Women of Canada (NCJW) Toronto section’s 2008 Passover Food Drive, which runs this year from March 26 to April 13.
They’ve asked agencies, synagogues, schools and community groups to submit recipients’ names, and on the April 13 delivery day, they expect to send out about 3,000 boxes to about 2,600 families.
Last year, said Wasserman, about 10,000 people benefited from the drive, and they expect that this year the list will grow.
Recipients include individuals living in poverty, recent immigrants in need, and individuals with disabilities and inadequate financial resources.
The community can help by donating kosher for Passover food – brown shopping bags will be inserted in the March 27 edition of The CJN – at participating grocery stores, schools, community centres and synagogues, “but we desperately need money, because we can purchase food at wholesale costs, so the money goes further,” Fenwick said.
“We also know what we need, so if we’re short of a specific item, we can purchase it,” she added.
As well, NCJW needs volunteer drivers to help deliver boxes on April 13.
Boxes include many of the essentials needed for a seder and the week of Passover, including matzah, soup, tea and apple juice, gefilte fish, canned fruit, Passover wine or grape juice, macaroons, tuna, jam, apple sauce and candles.
She said boxes are packed by about 750 students beginning March 26. “One girl who packed boxes while she was a student at Associated Hebrew Schools is now in social work school and has come to us for her placement. She remembered the good work we do. It has a lasting effect on people. Once you’re exposed to the drive, you want to be part of it.”
On delivery day, said Wasserman, volunteers get a “snapshot” into Jewish diversity in the city. “Boxes are delivered to people living in basements or above stores, and most kids have not been exposed to this. Some don’t appear poor, but they may be shut-in or ill. All recipients have been referred. No one can call in that they need a box.
“Delivery day is certainly special. It is the highlight of the drive. Volunteers meet people they would never ordinarily meet.”
Running the drive is like running a business, Fenwick said.
“We created a letter and the brown bag, we put together a distribution list, and we organize all the volunteers. We’re here two days a week, but we think about it all week. It is an organizational feat.”
The two women have been on the drive committee for a number of years, but this is their first as chairs, “and it has been a learning curve,” Wasserman said.
Volunteer drivers should show up at Council House, 4700 Bathurst St., with a driver and helper at 8:30 a.m., April 13. For information, call NCJW at 416-633-5100.